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8 Holiday Performances We’re Excited About This Season

Cue the twinkly lights, Christmas trees, menorahs and candles — the holiday season is officially underway in Boston. And that means the holiday lineups for performance groups across the city (and beyond) are about to get underway. Here are our suggestions for eight of those shows we can’t wait to see.

And if you’re concerned about cost, buy your tickets through the Mayor’s Holiday Special. The program aims to increase accessibility to the arts by offering significant discounts on specific shows — including a number on this list. (We've added a * to events that are included in the Mayor's Holiday Special. Inventory changes day by day.)

Boston Ballet’s 'The Nutcracker'

Through Dec. 30

The tale of Clara and her nutcracker is a must-see each season. Performed every year, the Boston Ballet production includes vivid scenery, stunning dancing and all the traditional characters, from the mice and toy soldiers to the sugar plum fairy.

The Boston Ballet performs "The Nutcracker." (Courtesy Liza Voll/Boston Ballet)
The Boston Ballet performs "The Nutcracker." (Courtesy Liza Voll/Boston Ballet)

* 'It’s A Wonderful Life'

Through Dec. 23

Head outside the city for the Greater Boston Stage Company’s production of “It’s A Wonderful Life,” adapted from the 1946 film about a struggling man and his guardian angel.


* 'A Nightmare on Elf Street'

Through Dec. 23

Head to Machine Nightclub for Ryan Landry and the Gold Dust Orphan's holiday production "A Nightmare on Elf Street." The show follows Shirley Holmes, played by Landry, and her team as they investigate a Christmas mystery, complete with musical numbers.

Clockwise from top: Samuel Thornhill as Blitz Blitzen, Taryn Lane as Dani Dancer, Jeff Blanchette as Chris Comet, and Kiki Samko as Clair Cupid in "A Nightmare on Elf Street". (Courtesy Michael von Redlich)
Clockwise from top: Samuel Thornhill as Blitz Blitzen, Taryn Lane as Dani Dancer, Jeff Blanchette as Chris Comet, and Kiki Samko as Clair Cupid in "A Nightmare on Elf Street". (Courtesy Michael von Redlich)

Jewish Festival of Lights

Wednesday, Dec. 5

Take in the celebration of Jewish history at the Museum of Fine Arts (free admission begins at 4 p.m.). The evening will include live music (including traditional Sephardic tunes), dancing and story telling about the Jewish faith and culture. Don’t miss the museum’s Judaica collections while you’re there, or the menorah in the courtyard made by local artists.


* 'Black Nativity'

Dec. 7 - Dec. 23

The National Center of Afro-American Artists bills its production as the black community’s Christmas gift to the world. Telling the story of the Christian nativity, the show weaves themes of hope and joy through verses of scripture, music, dance and the poetry of Langston Hughes.

Performers practiced at the Black Nativity dress rehearsal on November 30th, 2016 at the Paramount Center in Boston. (Hadley Green for WBUR)
Performers practiced at the Black Nativity dress rehearsal on November 30th, 2016 at the Paramount Center in Boston. (Hadley Green for WBUR)

North Shore Music Theatre’s 'A Christmas Carol'

Dec. 7 - Dec 23

This holiday tradition is equal parts theater and family reunion for cast, crew and audience alike — the actor playing Ebenezer Scrooge has held the role for more than 20 years. The original adaptation of the story written specifically for the North Shore venue, the musical production includes traditional carols and special effects. (Important note: The production does not allow children under the age of 4 into the theater.)

If you want to stay closer to the city, head to Cambridge for another rendition of "A Christmas Carol" at the Central Square Theater.


* Boston Symphony Orchestra’s 'Holiday Pops'

Dec. 7 - Dec. 24

This holiday tradition is great for families, with popular songs and carols, a sing-along and a visit from the one and only Santa Claus. If you have young kids, consider checking out the matinee performance — it’s shorter, and tailored for the little ones.

Keith Lockhart conducts the Holiday Pops show. (Stu Rosner/Boston Pops)
Keith Lockhart conducts the Holiday Pops show. (Stu Rosner/Boston Pops)

* 'Urban Nutcracker'

Dec. 20 - Dec. 30

Love "The Nutcracker," but looking to change it up this year? Go see Tony Williams' "Urban Nutcracker." In its 18th season, the "Urban Nutcracker" turns the iconic story on its head to make the show more accessible for the larger Boston community. It features a diverse cast and choreography that mixes classical ballet with hip-hop, tap and folk dances that blend the Tchaikovsky score with American jazz standards — all with a cityscape as the backdrop.

For another interpretation, check out the Jose Mateo Ballet Theater's "Nutcracker," known for emphasizing substantial dancing roles over theatrical effects.

Still not different enough for you? Head to Somerville for a burlesque rendering of Clara’s Christmas journey in "The Slutcracker."

A scene from the 2015 performance of the "Urban Nutcracker." (Courtesy Peter Paradise Michaels/Urban Nutcracker)
A scene from the 2015 performance of the "Urban Nutcracker." (Courtesy Peter Paradise Michaels/Urban Nutcracker)

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Hannah Chanatry Contributor
Hannah Chanatry is a freelance arts writer whose work has appeared in CommonWealth Magazine and the Syracuse Post-Standard.

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